Starting a market stall is more than a hobby

Are you lucky enough to know how to upscale old wine bottles into vases? Perhaps you are a wood turner, ceramicist, or a retired farmer who creates sculptures from farm machinery? If so, you are one of the lucky ones who understand the joy of creating something from scratch and having people admire your work.

Whatever your skill, have you entertained the idea of a market stall to sell some of your handicrafts? You might find it becomes a regular source of cash flow as well as a rewarding experience. A good market stall though, isn’t as easy as dusting off the old trestle table from the back shed and plonking your jars of pickles on it. Like anything, if you want to get it right, you need to do some homework first.

Become a secret shopper
It might sound obvious, but you have to go out and visit markets to find one that compliments your product and is relatively easy for you to access. Hit the markets this weekend and once you've found one with the right vibe, visit it a few times to make sure it buzzes regularly.

Talk to the stall holders and find out what it is really like. Don’t be put off by any comments from an unhappy stall holder as they may be quick to tell you everything wrong with the market and management. Often, it is their product offering — not management.

Doing the deal on your new stall
When you have nailed the location, get in touch with the management company of the market. It’s very likely you won’t be the only one who thinks your chosen market is the best, so there could be a waiting list and selection criteria.

This is good — it means management is actively interested in keeping the product mix diverse and interesting for buyers. It may be harder to get in, but it is the type of market you want.

You may find they even offer support with basics such as:

  • A listing on the market website
  • Your business name listed on the market map guide
  • Promotion of your business through the market’s social media accounts
  • Debit or credit card facilities
  • Insurance
  • Table hire

Rules and regulations
Australia has three levels of government in most states, so there will be a few regulations you need to learn about, particularly if you are cooking and selling food onsite.

After the market managers, your local council will be of most help and should be able to guide you in the right direction for insurance, licensing, and safety information.

Business.gov.au has a helpful guide on setting up a market stall, with a lot of good information, particularly for food stalls, but also general products.

Pricing your products
Your price point could be the difference between you and Martha Stewart on the other side of the market. You definitely don’t want to give away your handmade products but you should have some idea of price for similar mass-made products, or know why your product is worth more than what Martha is selling hers for.

Price your items clearly, or set them up in price ranges so people can see — without asking — how much your products cost. There are always bargain hunters who ask for a discount, so make sure you have a prepared answer about the pricing of your products.

Clearly label what the product is made from, such as 100% Australian wool, or list all the ingredients in any pre-made food items.

Make sure you have plenty of product on display or within easy reach in case you sell out more quickly than you expect. It visually tells customers you aren’t a “one off” stall and they will look for you the next week.

Of course, you won’t win every customer who comes to your stall, unfortunately.

Marketing yourself
Why not think about getting business cards printed? It is relatively inexpensive these days and there’s no shortage of options online which make it very easy. If you decide to hold off, you should at least have your contact details (name, email, mobile number) pre-printed — or written down for that handmade touch — in case someone would like to get in touch and buy more products later.

Another great idea is to have a sign-up sheet ready to collect customer information, then you can notify them if you change the day or location of your stall, or have new stock.

Once your regular spot at the market is buzzing, you may want to think about creating a Facebook page for your stall. It keeps you in touch with customers, and they can easily get in touch and order more products. Grandchildren can be super handy with setting up Facebook.

Phew, sounds like a lot of homework, doesn’t it? Still, don’t be put off — there are loads of people who appreciate handmade products and connecting with the talented creator. It’s sure to be a rewarding experience!

Further links:

Have you ever set up a market stall? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

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Feature image credit - Vicky Jirayu / Shutterstock.com.